LORD GIFFORD URGES QUICK REFERENDUM ON CCJ
Source: Jamaica Observer
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Renowned human rights lawyer Lord Anthony Gifford has called for a referendum to be held quickly for Jamaicans to determine whether the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) should become the country's final appellate court.
Lord Gifford, who practices in Jamaica and in the United Kingdom as a barrister, said the CCJ would be more accessible, affordable and provide a better quality of justice for Jamaicans and other former British colonies in the Caribbean than the Judicial Committee of the UK Privy Council, which currently serves as the final appellate court for criminal and civil matters.
Lord Gifford gave his views in the debate rekindled by Lord Nicholas Phillips, the president of the UK Supreme Court, who stated that the Law Lords on the Privy Council were spending a "disproportionate" amount of time on cases from former colonies, mostly in the Caribbean.
Gifford was speaking at a reception to mark the 800th anniversary of the University of Cambridge at the British High Commissioner's residence in Kingston last Thursday evening, two days after Prime Minister Bruce Golding told University of the West Indies students that his Government may now be willing to re-evaluate its position on the court.
Golding and his Jamaica Labour Party have always held that the matter of the CCJ should be put to a referendum.
On Thursday, Lord Gifford - pointing out that Lord Phillips was his closest friend when they studied together at Cambridge, and was best man at his first wedding - said: "I support my old friend and classmate, and hope his words will provide the stir to take Jamaica out of the Privy Council and into the Caribbean Court of Justice after a referendum of the Jamaican people in which both (political) parties would urge a 'yes' vote."
The veteran advocate said the CCJ would produce a better quality of justice than the Privy Council for a number of reasons, including that it consists of seven learned judges from different backgrounds; five from the Caribbean, and one each from the UK and The Netherlands respectively.
He said the CCJ will be accessible at reasonable cost to litigants, as cases are currently heard in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, with the option to move around the region.
"No need for the litigants or his lawyers to get a visa," Lord Gifford quipped.
A recent CCJ judgement on appeal of a death penalty case in Barbados was cited, "drawing on human rights precedence to reach a just decision that saved the lives of two men".
Another advantage highlighted was the opportunity the CCJ will provide for the region's lawyers, "making it possible to make their name in pursuing a case to the highest court".
Gifford said that his arguments in support of the CCJ were practical and not about the Privy Council being a "colonial relic" or "composed of white foreigners".